Why Mitch McConnell?
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: 80-year-old Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is the indispensable man. McConnell’s indispensability, we’re told, stems from his skill in shepherding Republican judicial nominees through the process and onto the federal bench. Alternatively, McConnell’s mastery of Senate rules keeps more than a few Democrats off the bench. This is practically lore among Republicans.
But McConnell’s prowess is overstated. As the saying goes, graveyards are full of indispensable men. Okay, give McConnell his due. He’s been an effective manager, advancing and opposing judicial nominations. But are we to believe that among McConnell’s 49 Senate Republican colleagues not one has the chops to lead on judicial nominations? If so, then Republicans better pray that McConnell is Methuselah’s clone.
McConnell is a one-trick pony, and in a Trumpian GOP, he’s increasingly -- as in daily -- an anachronism. He comes across as haughty. He’s more comfortable prowling the Senate cloakroom than pressing the flesh and making the case for real change… at a time when Americans sorely need authentic liberty-loving change.
McConnell’s stumping for Georgia GOP Senate nominees Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the January 2021 runoffs proved he has no feel for retail politics.
In the Peach State, McConnell made a point of congratulating Joe Biden on his November victory -- a victory in Georgia, no less, rife with “irregularities.” Trump-backing voters were in no mood to hear that. Loeffler, handpicked by Governor Brian Kemp, possessed poor political skills. Yet, she only lost to Ralph Warnock by less than 100,000 votes out of about 4.5 million cast. Perdue, who had led his opponent Jon Ossoff in the November contest, lost his runoff by a scant 55,000 votes.
Yes, more than one factor helped Democrats snag the Georgia seats. But McConnell’s ineptness surely cost Loeffler and Purdue votes. Losing those seats deadlocked the Senate, giving Democrats control via a power-sharing agreement (Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaking vote).
A troubled nation is sailing toward disaster, compliments of Biden and a radicalized Democrat Party. Senate Republicans need a leader who’s committed to new thinking, a bold reform agenda, and fighting hard.
McConnell, a consummate D.C. insider, is, by temperament and conditioning, comfortable playing between the lines. He’s a backroom dealmaker and fixer. America today is riven by dramatic partisan and ideological differences, which doesn’t leave much room for dealmaking and fixes.
There’s no Tip O’Neil grudgingly hammering out deals with the Gipper. There’s no Bill Clinton, who, following the Democrats’ historic 1994 congressional losses, was open to striking deals with Speaker Newt Gingrich. Democrats want no part in splitting differences, even if differences could be split. Would-be oligarchs like Mark Zuckerberg underwrite the party, directly or via dark money.
The Democrats’ agenda from January 2021 forward has been aimed at seizing control, rigging the system, and establishing de facto one-party rule. The nation is embroiled in a cold civil war. It’s zero-sum. Senate Republicans need a fighting general. McConnell is Halleck, not Grant.
McConnell appeals to play-it-safe, woodenheaded Republicans who long for the days when their clubby predecessors sidled up to powerful Democrats for whatever scraps Democrats deigned to throw. Romney-like, they drone on about the need to reach across the aisle to make America work. After all, that’s what voters say they want in focus groups. Right. But what voter is going to naysay a frothy platitude?
Should Republicans win Congress this November, just shouting “stop” isn’t enough. Legislation needs to be sent to Biden’s (or Harris’) desk that tackles inflation, energy, crime, and the border, among other vital issues.
Anticipating vetoes, Republicans should send legislation again and again that underscores priorities and their solutions. They need to jettison the “Let’s all get along” singsong and doggedly take the fight to Democrats. Coordinating with their House colleagues, Senate Republicans are charged with setting the stage for the 2024 presidential sweepstakes, perhaps the most consequential election since the Hoover-FDR matchup in 1932.
Florida senator Rick Scott is advancing an audacious “11 Point Plan to Rescue America,” much to McConnell’s chagrin. McConnell has branded Scott’s plan DOA. He fears a Scott challenge to his leadership post-elections.
McConnell has ignored the plan’s outstanding provisions. Instead, he singled out a solitary Scott recommendation for criticism. It promotes the idea that Americans who pay no federal income taxes -- that’s about half the nation -- pay something. Chuck Schumer has also denounced Scott’s suggestion.
Remarked Scott about his plan:
“It will be ridiculed by the ‘woke’ left, mocked by Washington insiders, and strike fear in the heart of some Republicans. At least I hope so,” Scott said in a statement on his political website.
Scott’s plan, which strongly emphasizes cultural issues, shouldn’t be considered a stand-alone. Kevin McCarthy, along with House GOP leaders, is developing a “Commitment to America.” That plan can be regarded as a companion to Scott’s. Neither plan is gospel, but both will offer ways out of the nation’s woes.
While hard-pressed, hardworking voters are ready to throw out Democrats, they have every right to expect more from Republicans. They want answers.
McConnell, along with other establishment Republicans, believes that saying, “We’re not Democrats” suffices to win this autumn. But that’s not leadership.
While voter revulsion may be enough to secure the House and Senate for the GOP, content-free campaigns risk 2022 midterm gains moving ahead. Risk-averse establishment Republicans fear alienating some voters with specifics. Cultural issues are poison to them. This “old think” is an obstacle to substantive change.
Newt Gingrich offered this criticism of McConnell’s approach:
Gingrich, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, also criticized McConnell for what he considers a leadership style of: "Don't tell anybody what you're going to do, and then I'll go into a room and I'll make all the decisions."
As to left-wing Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate appointment to the Supreme Court, McConnell gets a half-pass. The cake was already baked. Democrats weren’t going to break ranks. That gave Jackson 50 votes plus Harris’ tiebreaker.
Where McConnell failed as leader was in permitting three Republicans to cast their votes for Jackson. The three backing Jackson were usual suspects Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney.
Given the grilling that Jackson received from Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Josh Hawley about her go-easy approach in sentencing pedophiles and her evasiveness (kudos also to Marsha Blackburn “tripping up” Jackson with a question about what constitutes a woman), why didn’t McConnell put the screws to those GOP renegades, insisting that they stick with their caucus? McConnell should have forced a straight party-line vote.
Failing to do so, McConnell permitted Romney, Collins, and Murkowski to give Democrats bipartisan cover that corporate media exploited.
Finally, there’s McConnell’s aversion to Trump, who, barring health issues, is the GOP’s odds-on-favorite standard-bearer. McConnell and his wife -- Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary -- showed their true colors, bailing on Trump in the wake of the Democrats’ Capitol Hill insurrection ruse. McConnell, though, hedged after abandoning Trump, saying “that he would ‘absolutely’ support Trump if he wound up as the Republican presidential nominee in 2024.”
If Trump passes on a presidential run, the next in line for the nomination is Ron DeSantis, Florida’s rebel governor with a cause. DeSantis stands to inherit Trump’s base. D.C. lifer McConnell is, hands down, no DeSantis man. Which tells us what? It’s not Trump, DeSantis, and the grassroots who are out of step. It’s the aloof, double-dealing Kentucky senator who is.
J. Robert Smith can be found regularly at Gab @JRobertSmith. He also blogs at Flyover.
Image: Gage Skidmore